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Bluff, Mexican Hat Moved From ‘Yellow’ Back To ‘Orange’ Status

FILE: Gov. Gary Herbert.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Governor Gary Herbert moved Bluff and Mexican Hat, in San Juan County, back into the more serious threat level of Orange.

In a statement Herbert said, “Because of difficult conditions in the Navajo Nation and along its borders, we are transitioning the municipalities of Bluff and Mexican Hat from yellow to orange to signal a significant health risk in the area.  We very much appreciate working with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on efforts to combat COVID-19. Our hearts go out to all of our Navajo friends who have been impacted by this awful virus.”

The order was effective immediately.

The transition back to Orange was made after the two cities requested Governor Herbert to make the move. Herbert met with local and state health officials before issuing the order, a news release said.

A spokeswoman for the Governor’s office confirmed that this is the first time the Governor ordered an area to move form a lower risk level to a higher risk level.

The orange level is a moderate risk status and the yellow level is low risk according to the Governor’s color-coded Utah Leads Together phased guidelines.

Most of the state moved to the yellow level last Saturday.

Bluff and Mexican Hat are in San Juan County which is also where part of the Navajo Nation lies in Utah.

The most recent update from the Utah Health Department shows there are 254 confirmed cases of COVIDE-19 and four deaths in San Juan County, and the Navajo Nation reports 725 confirmed cases in the San Juan portion of the reservation.

Utah’s color-coded health guidance for Southeastern Utah does not apply to the current situation on Navajo Nation lands located in Utah, as these are sovereign lands, according to a news release from Herbert’s office.

The release said the State of Utah strongly encourages Utah residents living on tribal lands to follow all tribal health directives. The reservation currently has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the country.

Tribal leaders have enforced highly restrictive weekend lockdowns to slow the spread of the disease.

This holiday weekend’s lockdown begins at 8 p.m. Friday and ends at 5 a.m. Memorial Day.